While summer is generally considered to be coming to a close- what with school back in session and the official start of fall just around the corner- beach season in Florida is far from over. We’re blessed to live in the Tampa Bay area where we have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Taking your dog to the beach can be a lot of fun for both you and your dog, but it comes with its own specific hazards that every pet owner should be aware of.
Perhaps the biggest concern of any pet at the beach is saltwater toxicity. While many dogs dislike the taste and will preferentially drink clean water, it is nearly impossible for them to avoid swallowing at least some seawater, especially if they are avid swimmers or are retrieving toys from the water. And then there are some dogs that just seem to enjoy the taste of the salty water! The high amounts of salt in seawater can start a dangerous sequence of events as your dog’s body tries to compensate, inducing a severe dehydration that can potentially lead to brain damage, causing seizures or worse. In general, the small amounts your dog may swallow while swimming are compensated for by providing copious amounts of fresh, clean drinking water- make sure that they take breaks and offer clean water frequently. However, if your dog actively drinks seawater while at the beach, it would be best to limit their access to the saltwater itself.
Initial signs that your dog may have ingested enough saltwater to cause significant issues would be vomiting and diarrhea, severe lethargy or behavior change, disorientation, and uncoordinated movement. Some of these signs can also be an indication of heat stress or heat stroke, as well, a condition that should also be addressed as soon as possible. If you notice any of these symptoms after prolonged exposure to saltwater, your dog should be taken to a veterinarian immediately.
The type of beach you take your dog to is another consideration. On the gulf, most beaches are sandy and smooth, with dried seaweed and driftwood the biggest things you might see on shore. But- especially nearer to the bay- rougher shores with sharp rocks and the shells of oysters and other shellfish can cause lacerated paws and pads that may require immediate veterinary attention. Even relatively minor cuts can be at risk of secondary infections if not cleaned and bandaged appropriately.
As with any place where there are multiple dogs playing together, there is a higher risk of certain infectious diseases (such as Bordetella or Canine Influenza) and intestinal parasites. Making sure your dog is up to date on vaccines and prevention can help mitigate the chance that they contract any issues from these communicable diseases.
The beach can be a fun getaway for both you and your dog, but knowing the risks before you go can also help make it a safe trip for everyone involved. If you have any other questions, or would like to make an appointment with one of our veterinarians to get your pet up to day on preventatives please call us at (813) 749-6863 or book an appointment on our website.